Muntjac make good pie
The weather warmed up this week, the birds sang a little louder, a few fly hatched off the river and the postman put his shorts back on. We have had several inches of rain and the river is starting to look a little fuller, although the spring ditches are not yet flowing very strong. Bizarrely the Ranunculus on the top shallows has flourished over the past month and despite being cut out in October is now waving in the faster current. A vitally important weed, we don’t yet fully understand the cycles of its growth, the only explanation that I can throw up is that the water has been crystal clear throughout the snowy period and the light intensity may have stimulated some growth despite the river being bloody freezing.
Much of the past few days has been spent engaged in the never ending struggle with Crack willow, it grows up, it falls over it takes root and grows up again, slowly creeping towards the river. Parts of some of the bends have become starved of light, inhibiting weed and marginal growth and it is these that I am tacking first, their removal has the added bonus of making some of the bends easier to fish!
We had another bumble around on a shoot day. Still no Geese, but plenty of Widgeon and more and more Snipe, Otis sprang over twenty from a puddle no more than six feet square on the top water meadow. The top drive was the best it has been all year, with plenty of Partridge and Pheasant coming out in ones and twos, it was raining for much of the morning and I thought it would be blank. The Iron Age defence ditch that has proved to be our best drive for some years has been ruined by the work carried out in the name of English Heritage. Cold, bare and bleak, where it was once full of bottom, bushes and shelter, it offers little to the wildlife of the Parish other than the Badgers who dig away at it with gay abandon. We put up a fox close to the house, and blazed away at quite a few pigeon. A few Muntjac scurried through, these funny little deer have now gone to the top of my favourite Venison list. We have had haunches and saddles cooked in a variety of ways these past few months and we have not been let down yet. Braised slowly the meat tastes like steak and kidney, a haunch roasted with rosemary, like strong lamb. It won’t be long before Nigella or Marco are singing its praises, because there are plenty of them skipping about the Home Counties.
The Bittern are back, I have not seen one yet but there have been several reports of their sighting. So far we have seen fewer Cormorants than last year although the Otters have taken their place as “destroyer in chief” of the local fish population. I have now got radios on each of the stew ponds. Radio 2 is keeping them away at the moment with Richard Madeley’s two-week stint standing in for Chris Evans on the Breakfast show proving to be particularly effective. Further down the river some video monitoring is taking place to provide evidence of what the cheeky little critters are up to. It may help in demonstrating the problem to a public who see all things cuddly as something that must be protected, although it is interesting to note that the fine fleece and sandals brigade have little to say on the matter. “Let those who have commercial interests in fishing shout about the problem lest it harm our image in the media” seems to be their take on Otters, although what these cute creatures will eat when stocking is restricted or no longer permissible is a no brainer.